Thursday, 12 January 2012


Cee Lo sparked controversy on New Year's Eve. Performing Imagine, changing a word or two. John Lennon's lyrics didn't need tweaking, so I'm not sure why he did it. I'm not incensed by this deliberate and public act. Words get edited, distorted, censored all the time, just like Chinese whispers. An old tune sampled, different lyrics attached. I used to sing “Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you.” Singing the line with gusto, believing I was right. A childish error, but I wasn't admonished for it. Now I'm doing it again, only this time with intent...

Imagine books, no pages. I wonder if you can.” John Lennon fans hunt me down, batter down my door. Too late to imagine. The page-less future, my worst nightmare has arrived. When Kindle burst onto the scene, I thought it won't last. The trend will boom and crash. Prices are coming down, but electronic reading is here to stay. Incapable of using a finger, a thumb to turn pages. The smell of musty books relinquished. Well thumbed pages. Printed word and illustrations faded. Reading from a screen you'll never again be able to sniff the ink, feel the texture of pages.

The library, the home of books, is to me sacred. No initiation required to be accepted as a borrower, a browser, a reader. An intrepid explorer, gazing up at the mountainous shelves of books. Where to begin in this temple of knowledge? Fantasy, romance, adventure... Like Roald Dahl's Matilda I was a girl devoted to books. A bookworm, head permanently stuck in a book. Reading aloud to myself and the dog. Held captive by the characters, the plot. Every page devoured. The beginning, the middle, the end. Books are my guilty pleasure. Sneakily read when they shouldn't be. Moments snatched for another paragraph or two. The escape too brief to this mind's eye view.

A flickering screen can never replace the feel of a book. Holding it aloft, a fingertip tap to turn the pages. Scrolling down, nothing solid to grip or to flick through. A paper saving device. Pleasure removed from reading. Imagining a future where I might tell aloud this story; “Once upon a time, great buildings stood, which were lined with shelves of books. There were fat books, thin books. Large books, small books. Shelves marked from A to Z. Everyone had a pass, to borrow books for free...” Children absorbed, their eyes opened wide in disbelief. A little boy piping up at the back, “Miss, what are books?”